Archive for August, 2012

Posted on: August 13th, 2012 by Guest Blogger No Comments

Play-in-a-Day: The War on Women

By Daria Sommers

The nightmare of anti-women rhetoric and legislation unleashed by the republican victories in 2010 midterm elections has all but exhausted my power of outrage and disbelief. Government mandated vaginal probes? Bayer aspirin as contraception? Single motherhood as the cause of today’s biggest social ills? If tomorrow someone suggested a constitutional amendment declaring women as property, well, I confess, I would not be surprised. I almost expect it. In this election year, it is hard to thwart that creeping sense of despair.

But after attending the Culture Project’s boisterous “Play-in-a-Day” program last night, I felt, as I think many in the audience did, wonderfully renewed for the fight ahead. As part of the IMPACT 2012: Festival of Political Art, 11 short plays were presented, each addressing different aspects of the War on Women but with a wonderful twist. Each of the participating playwrights was given only 16 hours to write their plays along with a subject prompt from the most recent news cycle to focus their imaginations. The directors and actors had another 9 hours to stage and fine-tune the performances. Then curtain time.

The evening experience, sometimes rough around the edges (although not as much as you would think given the 25 hour turn around) and other times smooth as silk, was extraordinarily refreshing, particularly in the plays that effectively incorporated elements from recent news cycles into their story lines. Cecilia Copeland’s Madonna, Brittany, and PUSSY RIOT, a subway discussion between two women over who was the real artist, Madonna or Brittany Spears, smoothly worked in the news that Pussy Riot, the Russian Feminist Punk Rock Group, had just received jail sentences while Kanene Holder’s hilarious and wicked Michele Bachman impersonation in Michele Bachman’s No Good Very Very Bad Day called her out on her hate speech in light of the horrifying shooting at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin.

The evening ended with a brilliantly hysterical monologue by Eboni Hogan called Are You Mom Enough? during which she plays a young mother of two who disintegrates from the super mom, only the best for my child, helicopter parent syndrome to the I’ve had it with this thankless job and everyone who expects me to do it perfectly realist all mothers know, love and recognize.

Are You Mom Enough? was a pitch perfect way to end the evening (and deserves, along with a few other pieces to be further developed and presented elsewhere) because the War on Women is all about control over our bodies, our reproductive systems and, as Janice Maffei’s piece Adventures in New Territory explores (through one Louisiana Charter School’s policy to force girls they think might be pregnant girls to leave), over our thoughts as well.

Daria Sommers is a writer and filmmaker. She is the co-director and co-producer, with Meg McLagan, of Lioness, winner of the Center for Documentary Studies Filmmaker Award at the Full Frame Film Festival in 2008 and broadcast on Independent Lens as well as Eastern Spirit Western World, broadcast by PBS, BBC and CBC and Ready To Burn, recipient of Panavision’s New Director’s Award. Among her current projects is the Vermont Rap Lab Media Project, a series of short films on the poet/writer Jay Stevens’ work with troubled teens. Her work has received support from the NEH, the Sundance Documentary Fund, the Fledgling Fund and Chicken & Egg Pictures.

Learn more about Daria’s film, Lioness, co-directed and co-produced with Meg Mclagan, at


Posted on: August 8th, 2012 by Guest Blogger No Comments

Via: ACLU Blog of Rights
“Lioness: The Reality of Women’s Combat Experiences”

By Ariela Migdal, ACLU Women’s Rights Project at 2:33pm

Shannon Morgan was always a good shot, a skill she acquired growing up in rural Arkansas. As a member of a U.S. Army “Lioness” team of women soldiers in Iraq in 2003, she held her own in firefights and went out on patrols with both Army and Marine Infantrymen. Yet, official policy bars the armed services from assigning women to direct ground combat units in most situations, regardless of how well they perform under fire. Instead, when commanders want to put talented women soldiers on combat teams, they must do so by temporarily “attaching” them to those units, or sending them in a support role, rather than an official combat role. The result is that women soldiers, like Shannon, went into combat in Iraq with soldiers they hadn’t trained with and barely knew.

In the documentary film Lioness, filmmakers Meg McLagan and Daria Sommers document the story of the first group of Lioness soldiers in Iraq. They tell the story of Shannon and her fellow soldiers’ fight against insurgents, as well as their fight to be recognized for their role in history as female combatants. The film’s promotional materials describe the ad-hoc nature of the teams of women assembled to patrol alongside the Infantry: “How did a group of female support soldiers-mechanics, supply clerks and engineers end up fighting alongside the Marines in some of the bloodiest counterinsurgency battles of the Iraq war?”

Click on the image above to watch the trailer.

The film vividly illustrates the danger that can result when official policy forbids commanders from assigning women soldiers to the combat units with which they will be fighting. Shannon explained that Army soldiers like her had a different code than Marines did to signal to each other that the unit was abandoning a certain location. At one point, in the middle of a firefight with insurgents, Shannon looked around and realized that the Marines she was with had evacuated the street, without her realizing it – the Marines hadn’t used the Army code she was used to. Fortunately, Shannon made it to safety.

Despite the experience of the Lioness teams and other teams of women who work with the Infantry in Iraq and Afghanistan, such as the women soldiers and Marines are still barred from being assigned to direct ground combat units below the battalion level.

This Thursday, I will be joining the filmmakers of Lioness at a screening of the film as part of the Culture Project’s Impact 2012 festival. I hope the screening provides an opportunity for other servicewomen who have served on teams like the Lioness teams to add their voices and tell their own stories. The more the public and policymakers recognize the gap between what the combat exclusion policy says on paper and the combat service that women have been performing in reality, the sooner this outdated and dangerous policy will be eliminated.

We’d like to hear your story if you have served in combat, or if you want to serve in a combat arms unit or attend a combat arms school or training program. Please contact us at (212) 519-7858 or

Learn more about combat exclusion: Sign up for breaking news alerts, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

Visit the ACLU Blog of Rights here.


Posted on: August 6th, 2012 by Elisa No Comments

IMPACT 2012 Videos

There’s been non-stop action this summer since Culture Project launched IMPACT 2012, its six week festival of political art! We’ve been continuously amazed by the passion of the various artists, activists, musicians, directors, economists, provocateurs, filmmakers, occupiers, transformers, patriots and visionaries who have been involved, and grateful for the generosity and energy our staff, volunteers, partners and sponsors have poured into this project. We’ve just hit the mid-point of the Festival, and have three more weeks of exciting, and very accessible programming to come. Enjoy!

Video Highlights:

Part I: Conversation on Immigration

Continue watching on Deep Dish TV’s Youtube page.

Rob Johnson at Conversation on the Economy

Chris Hedges at Conversation on the Economy